Bridging the physical and digital divide with facial recognition technology

For anyone who has travelled through border control at an airport, or owns one of the latest smartphones, facial recognition technology isn’t new. But using our faces to access a physical or digital service is about to become a more common occurrence in everyday life as companies across a wide range of sectors ramp up their investments in biometric technology.

AI-powered biometrics has quickly established itself as the most pertinent means of identifying and authenticating individuals in a reliable and fast way, through the use of unique biological characteristics.

As Singapore advances its Smart Nation vision, a study by Accenture revealed that AI could nearly double Singapore’s annual economic growth rates by 2035, changing the nature of work and spawning a new relationship between man and machine.

Building on that notion, the Singapore government has plans to roll out the National Digital Identity System for Singapore residents and businesses to transact digitally with the government and private sector in a convenient and secure manner in 2020 – heralding dramatic potential for economic growth.

Ready, get set, fly

Airports and airlines are leading the way. Faced with the prospect of increasing passenger numbers, they are under pressure to find ways of using existing infrastructure more quickly and effectively. Technologies that allow passengers to use their faces for ID verification from check-in through to boarding, will become more common.

This primes the way for frictionless access to a range of additional services, including airport security and tax-free shopping. But the vision doesn’t end there. Passengers will be able to use their face to check-in online at home via their smartphones and, after landing, pick up a car rental and check-in to a hotel using facial recognition technology at self-service kiosks.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for instance, has rolled out a pilot program in this capacity. Passengers will approach the gate and receive confirmation via a computer screen and camera following a facial verification from customs. Once verified, the captured images will be wiped from the system to ensure privacy for all passengers. 

This full digitisation of the traveller experience is the playground for the future attractiveness of air travel, where airports will race to become zero-queue environments that are able to ensure the best experience and anticipate hiccups from curb to gate.

Possibilities abound

Access control is another area where we are likely to see facial recognition emerge as a common form of identification, particularly in sensitive sectors such as energy and pharmaceuticals, where secure access to buildings is a priority.

Automotive manufacturers are also exploring the potential of facial recognition technology. Although still in the early stages, the vision is for a car to immediately recognise the face of an authorised driver, triggering permission to drive the car and access personalised preferences such as temperature settings and preferred play lists.

In customer-facing sectors such as hospitality, retail and financial services, we are likely to see companies using facial recognition technology to identify the category a person falls into as they walk through the door – are they a new customer or a VIP, for instance – and to tailor the customer experience accordingly.

While keeping within the parameters of privacy and discrimination rules, facial recognition technology will allow service providers to move into a new realm of personalised customer service.

A balancing act

It is however, important to remember that biometric technologies need to be implemented in the right way; if they aren’t, they could lead to an additional security risk and disrupt the customer journey.

Evolving business needs around cloud applications and mobile devices, combined with rising threats, and the need to reduce costs, require entirely new considerations for access control. Secure storage and multifactor authentication processes are clearly vital if we are to see a future where biometrics dominates over passwords for login processes. Afterall, it’s far more difficult to steal someone’s DNA or physical appearance than a password.

Whatever the use case, common factors are driving the shift to an increased use of facial recognition technology: an easier, faster, more convenient and secure service for customers and employees alike. What’s more, the performance and accuracy of underlying algorithms are likely to increase as developers integrate artificial intelligence software into facial recognition technology.

With the right security systems in place, the world of facial recognition technology is an exciting one, with limitless potential on offer.